It’s hard to describe, but when you experience a devastating trauma like the loss of a child, your life seems to begin again, in a different form. Everything that was once normal, obvious or natural, isn’t any more. You have to learn to do all these things, all over again, like a child does. That’s why you’ll find bereaved parents talking about living the new normal more than once.
When I received the devastating news that I was going to lose Sahar, my heart skipped a few beats. I had an out of body experience as I watched me and my husband sitting in that exam room while our doctors told us what was wrong with our little girl. Your body, in order to protect you from this excruciating pain, goes into shock completely. I didn’t even cry much the first hours after we got the news. The news didn’t hit me until I woke up from a nightmare that night. “It’s not a nightmare, this is reality”, I realised, while I completely forgot how to breathe. I was hyperventilating and unable to control myself, gasping for air while I felt I was going to pass out. Frank sat next to me while he kept repeating: “Slowly breathe in, slowly breathe out” again and again until I started regaining a normal breathing rhythm. My first time breathing again.
We locked ourselves in our house, buried in our grief. Family and friends brought us food, tissues and toilet paper. My sister in law brought Frank smokes, so he didn’t have to leave me, not even for a moment. Then came the first time Frank left the house without me. He just went for bread while my mother was at home with me. I felt this crippling fear as I saw him put on his jacket and leaving the house, but with the help of my mother, I survived those 15 minutes he was away.
After we lost her, the first-times confronted us as life went on, even when we wished it would stop. The first time wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes again. The first time leaving the house with my husband. The first time I drove the car again. The first time I used my eye liner and mascara again. The first time I went to the hairdresser (it was so overdue). The first time I had my manicure done again. The first time I started exercising again. My first run. The first time we went for take-out. First restaurant dinner. First time I stayed home alone. The first time Frank went to work. The first time I went to work. First time I went to the hospital where I lost her. First time back at my OB’s office. First Zumba-class. Needless to go on. You undoubtedly get the point.
Yesterday was the first time I went for dinner with a friend after loss, without Frank. The first time I left him home alone to go and have some fun. The first time I got all dressed up for a girls night out. It took me lots and lots of courage. But I had a very good time. We talked about Sahar -a lot-, but we also talked about everyday things, her upcoming wedding, about work, travel, the future, the fears, the hope. I fought the tears, but I didn’t fight the smiles and laughs. I embraced them and enjoyed them as they crossed my path. While I drove back home on my bike, getting completely soaked by the rain, guilt came knocking on my door again. But I didn’t let it stick for long, I showed it the way out a few minutes later.
As this might seem crazy to the people around us, there’s a first time for everything again, and every new event takes a lot of mental preparation, strength and bravery. And once you’ve done every one of those things for the first time, it gets better again, it gets easier again. I don’t know if I can say it becomes normal again. Maybe not yet. Maybe I will able to say that later on in the future, but not yet. When I embark on these little journeys of life all over again, guilt comes knocking on my door, more than often. Sometimes I can put it into perspective and let it go, and sometimes it haunts me for several days. Whenever it crosses my path, I have to remind myself that it is okay. That I deserve to live the life I was given, every tiny detail of it. That I have to live it, for my girl Sahar, for my husband Frank, for all the ones that love me, and for myself. And when I can’t see this for myself, there’s this beautiful support group surrounding me that reminds me when I’m unable to. My awesome husband, my family and friends, and this beautiful community of bereaved mothers and fathers I’ve had the honor of meeting.